Holiday Cheer: How Businesses Are Taking Charity to the Next Level
In the corporate world, the notion of how an organization can give back to communities has changed dramatically. In the past, simply donating money to a local charity or organizing an in-house food drive was enough for most businesses to 'check the box' of corporate responsibility and move on to the next quarter's objectives.
Today, organizations and their employees are increasingly contributing to their communities in more-elaborate and profound ways. Integrating closely with community partners to develop longer-term commitments and initiatives, seeking out innovative ways to support underprivileged communities, and forging cross-sectoral partnerships with like-minded companies are all methods by which corporations can have a true and lasting positive impact on the communities they thrive within.
Employees driving change
Many large corporations sponsor events to support specific charitable causes, such as Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce's (CIBC) Run for the Cure, a volunteer-led fundraising event that allows individuals to walk or run a prescribed length and to solicit contributions from friends and neighbors to fund breast cancer research. Beyond the international corporate sphere, many smaller organizations also contribute to local or global charity initiatives in a variety of ways. For instance Diamond Schmitt Architects, a firm with offices in Toronto, Vancouver and New York, matches funds raised by their employees when they participate in the Manulife Ride for Heart fundraising event.
The corporate desire to do more for their communities and the world isn't originating from outside the office walls. According to the Globe and Mail, a 2016 survey of more than 1000 millennial workers conducted by Cone Communications found that 76 percent of those surveyed take a company's social and environmental commitments into account when considering a position; 64 percent said they would refuse to work for a company that does not have a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility.
Some experts have encouraged corporations to adopt a strategy of data-driven philanthropy -- essentially, having corporations adopt a method of contributing that is enhanced or uniquely driven by their existing capabilities. For example, having an international shipping firm such as FedEx partner with food banks, local producers and distributors to improve the way donated food makes its way to those in need would be an example of data-driven philanthropy.
Companies including Google and telecommunications firm Telus have also undertaken huge commitments in the field of corporate social responsibility and charitable work. At Google.org, the company offers free advertising for non-profit organizations, contributes tens of millions of dollars to fund initiatives supporting education for women and girls worldwide, and provides $100 million per year in direct grants.
As another example of Google.org’s philanthropy, the organization funds a “skilling” program with Goodwill to the tune of $10 million, with the money being used to fund skills-training and job placement opportunities in communities across America. Google.org also funds media literacy programs in Southeast Asia that aim to improve people’s access to authoritative sources of information and to empower high school teachers in the Philippines to teach media literacy to thousands of students each year.
Beyond the activities of Google, another of America’s most powerful companies, Amazon, has undertaken a wide range of charitable and philanthropic initiatives to both give back to communities and support the individual wellbeing of the company’s employees, contractors and suppliers. But the largest philanthropic initiatives often come from those hard-working and fortunate individuals who have launched successful companies: Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett and Marc Benioff are all examples of people who have gone out of their way to make their wealth and resources do wonders around the world.
Doing more, locally
Around the world, corporations are increasingly adopting the mantra of social responsibility and stepping up to the plate to do their part to make the world a better place. Whether a company is big or small, there are ways that organizations and their employees can foster meaningful change in their home communities.
Corporations can partner with local or regional charities to leverage their geographic position and make it easy for employees to integrate employer-supported charitable work with their regular routine. Perhaps a local youth organization needs volunteers and donations of clothing and food; a nearby company can set up a donation box in their offices and offer employees a half-day paid off to volunteer. Or an entire organization can be mobilized during the holiday season to offer assistance in any form to local homeless shelters, soup kitchens, or women’s shelters. Children’s hospitals regularly seek out volunteers to spend time with ailing kids, another way that a corporation can encourage its employees to act for the greater good.
Ultimately, it’s up to organizations how they want to participate in giving back to their communities. But simply knowing that most employees are enthusiastic about being part of initiatives to help the less-fortunate should be enough to inspire corporations of any size to make plans and get down to work on one of the most important elements of their success: how to share their good fortune with others.